family, photography

The Moments In-Between

Goshen County Wyoming Family Photography, Torrington Wyoming Family Photography, Torrington Wyoming Photographer, Goshen County Wyoming PhotographerWhen we choose what prints to hang on the wall, we usually go for the beautiful family shot where everyone is looking at the camera and smiling. Those are the ones we print and share and put on Christmas cards.

But the in-between moments are my favorite part of family photography. Those moments where the subjects forget they are in front of a camera and let their guard down and get real. Like this moment between these two sweet siblings, Jack and Anna. I asked them to look at each other and try to make the other laugh without laughing themselves.

At first glance, they look like they are mad at each other. But they’re holding hands, you can see the smile playing at the corners of their mouths and there is subtle twinkle in their eyes. And isn’t that what having a sibling is all about? Equal parts love and frustration? Orneriness and love? Pushing each other’s buttons but always, ALWAYS having each other’s back, too?

So print those beautiful family photos. And cherish those in-between moments, too. They might not be perfect, but they are every bit as beautiful.

Teresa

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country life, family, Uncategorized, writing

Lifetime Dogs

Emily and Roxy-3I’m reading A Good Dog by Jon Katz.  It’s a sweet story about a middle-aged New Jersey writer and his adventures with his border collie, Orson, and the other dogs in his life.

Katz says he’s owned several dogs, but Orson was his lifetime dog…that one special dog that you connect to more than any other in your lifetime.  Your canine soulmate, if you will.

I spread the ashes of my sweet lifetime dog, Hoops, yesterday.  Hoops died over a year ago, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it until yesterday.  So on a perfect Wyoming fall morning, the Roxy dog and I went for a walk and I said a final farewell to my big, fluffy buddy.  I scattered them under the big cottonwood tree in our yard.  It was his favorite place to bask in all seasons.  And the sentimental side of me likes the idea part of him watching over us from his familiar post.

We have other dogs, dogs that I love and adore.  I love the patience and sweetness of our lab mix, Roxy.  And I love watching Ziggy the border collie herd birds and chase a frisbee.  But I agree with Katz.  There are lifetime dogs, and Hoops was mine.  I miss that big fluffy bugger every day.

Wyokiddo is following in the footsteps of her parents and is already a dog person.  She especially loves Roxy.  They play dress-up and chase.  She reads Roxy stories and likes the white dog to be near when she’s sick or upset.

My daughter will likely know many more dogs over the course of her lifetime.  I hope that one day, she’ll also know her lifetime dog.

Teresa

 

family, Uncategorized, writing

Flyin’ Solo

Emiliy's First Day of School-3My little one fledged the nest today.

The last few weeks, when we asked Wyokiddo about starting school, all she would say is “I’m a little nervous.  It’s a lot bigger.”

So this morning, I expected some anxious moments, maybe even some tears.

Nope.

From the minute she woke up this morning, she was smiles and sunshine.  I offered yet again to drive her to school, but she insisted she would ride the bus.  When the bus came, she climbed in like she owned the thing.

Outdoor Guy and I followed behind in the car with a grocery sack of school supplies and Kleenex.  Without any fuss or fanfare, Wyokiddo listened to her teacher as she explained the morning routine.  Then it was off to recess to see her friends.  No tears, no hesitation.  Just a dismissive wave and she was gone.

It will be a bit of a transition for me.  For five years, the curly-haired dynamo has been my shotgun rider.  To town, to photoshoots, exploring around the county– she was my partner-in-crime and willing duet partner.  We’ll both have to get used to a new normal.

I was doing okay until editing some photos later this morning and “Shotgun Rider” by Tim McGraw started playing on Amazon Music.  That’s when MY tears started falling.

Roll, won’t you come roll with me slow, fast, full speed
Girl wherever sweet time takes us
Hang, with me down this old road
Only God knows where we’ll go
Don’t matter long as I’ve got your love

I am in awe of the confidence and the zeal with which my daughter attacks life.  Wyokiddo has such an amazing little spirit and sweet heart.  That coupled with a silly sense of humor and a sharp-mind makes me one blessed mama.

Being a stay-at-home mom hasn’t always been easy.  There were moments I wished for more free time to pursue a hobby, or just an uninterrupted shower.  But it’s also been the most amazing gift to see my baby girl grow, learn and change.

As she grows, she’ll need me less and less.  And that’s okay.  Because I know our days together helped prepare her for these moments of independence.  She can tackle the world, then come home and have a snack and tell me all about it.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.

No I don’t ever wanna know, 
No other shotgun rider, 
Singin’ to the radio, 
You’re my shotgun rider.

Teresa

family, nature, photography, Uncategorized

Camera-less Camping

Camping-15Outdoor Guy, Wyokiddo and I traded the heat and deer flies of Goshen County for the high country this week.  We spent two and a half days in the Big Horn Mountains in northern Wyoming.  Two days of fishing, eating s’mores, enjoying each other, hiking and watching wildlife.

What I didn’t do much of was pick up my camera.

It was a promise I made to myself, for me and my family, to stop taking photos and just enjoy the moment.  When I’ve got my camera in my hand, my mind is constantly thinking about photography.  Where’s the best light?  What’s in the background?  Can I frame this better?  Is this sharp enough?  Ugh, that’s too dark, better open up my aperture.  

I decided on this trip, I wanted to focus on being a mom and a wife, not a photographer.  And I’m so glad I did.  I got to spend the lazy mountain mornings with my daughter cuddled in my lap, warming up by the fire.  I got to watch my husband and daughter make s’mores and marvel at how many of their mannerisms are the same.  I enjoyed the calm and quiet of our camp, the heady scent of pine and the spongy feel of the wild earth beneath our feet.

I took a few quick shots so Wyokiddo will have something for her scrapbook, and I couldn’t resist a few snaps of the mule deer doe and her two fawns moving through our camp.  But mostly my camera stayed in it’s case, forgotten.

As I laid in our tent our last night in camp listening to the soft snores from Wyokiddo and Outdoor Guy, I promised myself that I would do this more often…put down the camera and pick up my life.

In twenty years, Wyokiddo isn’t going to flip through photos of our time together and go “Uh oh.  Mom blew the focus on this one.  See how my hat’s not sharp?”

She’ll pick up the stack of these images and say “My first camping trip!  I remember how tired my legs were after that two-mile hike we went on and how mom complained about how hard the ground was.”

Photos should document our lives.  Not consume them.

Happy not-clicking!

Teresa

family, Uncategorized, writing

When Yes Isn’t Enough

Alaska.jpg

This weekend, the woman that introduced me to Outdoor Guy asked me “So do you feel like you have a strong marriage?  Everything is good?”

Without hesitation, I answered “Yes.”

While this friend and I were once quite close, life and jobs have moved us in different directions.  The weekend was a great opportunity to touch base with one another, and I think she just really wanted to know in her heart I was doing well.

“Yes,” I answered again with a bit more urgency.  “We’re great.”

Today, as I sit here on our eighth wedding anniversary, my “yes” just doesn’t seem adequate enough of an answer.  It doesn’t capture the depth of my feelings for and about the amazing man I married.  The man that keeps me grounded and lets me soar.  The man that wipes my tears and kicks me in the butt.  The man that lifts me up and brings my head out of the clouds.

In many ways, it feels like we’ve been married longer than just eight years.  We’ve endured the birth of our child, the death of my father, the loss of two pregnancies and the death of two beloved dogs.  We’ve survived three moves and two career changes.

Some of the ladies were ribbing me about sneaking out of camp to call Outdoor Guy and check in.  But that’s what makes us who we are.  I don’t call him out of any sense of obligation or because we need to keep tabs on each other.  I genuinely want to talk to him, to hear his voice, to know how his day went.  And he wants to know how things are going for me, too.

We love each other.  We respect each other.  We value the strengths and support the weaknesses of each other.  We are a team.

I’ve over-thought and second-guessed many decisions in my life.  But never him.  Never us.  I didn’t hesitate to say yes eight years ago in our vows and I won’t hesitate to say yes when someone asks me if my marriage is still going strong.  Yes.  Yes.  A thousand times, yes.

Teresa

family, wildlife, Wyoming

It’s Not About the Catch

Burrowing Owl-1DRW

Wyokiddo, Outdoor Guy and I got up a little early this morning to head down to our local reservoir for some fishing.  We got skunked.

On our walk back to the car, we saw some tiny little lizards darting across the path on the dam.  They were about the size of Outdoor Guy’s index finger and lightning fast.  We were also treated to the antics of some fat, lazy prairie dogs and a burrowing owl sighting on our way home.

“Sorry we didn’t catch any fish,” I told Wyokiddo as we put our stuff away in the house.

“Are you kidding?”  She asked me.  “We saw lizzards and owls.  this was the best fishing trip ever!”

I love that even at five, she’s starting to realize our mornings on the water isn’t about how many fish we catch, but about what we experience along the way together as a family.

Teresa

family, Uncategorized, writing

To My Daughter on her Fifth Birthday

5th Birthday-1Dear Emily,

You turned five this week, as you happily told everyone we encountered the last few days.  You think turning five means you can run faster and reach taller things like your other five-year old friends.

We celebrated with a party with your Wee Pals friends, lunch with Daddy on the actual day, and a party with family a day late because of some crazy thunderstorms that hit Wyoming on your actual birthday.  What a lucky little girl you are to have so many people who love you and want to celebrate with you.  I made an Elena of Avalor cake, and the hit presents were an Elena of Avalor guitar and a Minnie Mouse watch.

You have grown so much in the last year.  You are definitely a big kid now, ready to tackle kindergarten in the fall and anything else that life might throw at you.  I love your sense of adventure and willingness to try new things.  School, soccer, ballet…you tried all of them with a zest and confidence I admire.  Today, you went off the diving board at swimming lessons and swam to the side.  You didn’t hesitate once.  Your fearlessness inspires me to step out of my own comfort zone and try new things with you.

Your friends are becoming more important to you.  At school, I was told you usually preferred to play with the boys.  You love to play chase and tag and monsters and bad guys.  You attended your first birthday parties this year.  You teachers described you as the kind of girl who is friends with and plays with everyone.  When your new friend Colby told you his horse died and he was sad, you came home and drew him a picture to help cheer him up.  I love that you are social and genuinely kind to everyone.

Our relationship is changing, too.  No longer do you accept everything I tell you as gospel.  You question me and test me.  Sometimes it infuriates me, but I also know that it means you are developing your own sense of self and independent thinking skills.  You are also developing your own opinion on everything.  It is hard to accept because I still want you to want and need me.  But you are growing up and that means sometimes we will disagree.

You are looking forward to kindergarten and being with your friends.  You’re sad that Colby, Brady and your other Wee Pals friends won’t be there with you.  You cried when we had to say goodbye to Mrs. Mareta, Mrs. Molly and Mr. Lance at the end of the school year.  But I know you will enjoy the coming years too.  You are very much like Daddy and I in that you love to learn and understand how things work.  You are reading simple books by yourself, adding small numbers and counting higher and higher each day.  This spring, you accurately explained to me what an eclipse was, even demonstrating it with your yogurt, cereal bowl and water glass at breakfast one morning.

You continue to be an animal lover and nature explorer.  We spent hours in the barns so you could see and hold the pheasant chicks.  You love to watch nature shows like Wild Kratts and Nature Cat and learn about animals.  At night, when we give you kisses and cuddles, you most often want to play the “Animal Game,”  where you describe an animal and we have to guess it.  You know where an animal lives, what it eats, what it looks like and other weird facts about it.  Lemurs, giraffes, turtles, panda bears, whale sharks, you love them all.  You are Ziggy’s best friend and Roxy’s best girl.  I love watching you play “dog trainer” and putting Ziggy through his paces.  You were so upset when Roxy got bit by a rattlesnake.  I don’t think you slept at all that night we had to leave her at the vet.  Thankfully, she recovered and the two of you were back to playing dress up in a few days.

It is no surprise that you want to be a veterinarian when you grow up.  But I can also envision you as a scientist, teacher or a wildlife biologist like Daddy.  With your sense of adventure, I can picture you tracking down snow leopards in the Himayalas for your own Youtube channel.  Or maybe you’ll be an artist.  We spend hours drawing, painting and doing crafts.  My office is rapidly filling up with all your artwork!

Your favorite song right now is “Dirt on My Boots.”  You love it when Daddy and I turn on the music after dinner and we dance in the kitchen.  Some of your other favorites are “Walk Like an Egyptian,” “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” and “Happy.”

You are one of the only 5-year olds I know with a summer job.  After dinner, you, me, Daddy and Ziggy head out to the bird pens to run the chicks into their houses.  Sometimes you like it, other times you’d prefer to stay inside where it’s cool.  But we’re it as an opportunity to teach you about chores and responsibility.  You’re learning that life isn’t all fun and games and that we can’t quit just because a job gets hard.  I hope that seeing him in action and being around him will help you develop a work ethic like Daddy’s.  And I hope that little glimpse into how hard he works for our family will stick with you for life, and you’ll appreciate the sacrifices he makes for our family.  Chance are good you’ll like this chore less and less as time passes.  Until the day, that is, that you realize it wasn’t about working but about family.

There are times I look forward to the fall when you will be in school and I will have more free time.  But most of the time, I just get sad thinking about it.  You’ve been my constant companion and partner in crime for the last five years.  Not having you with me all day will be a big change for both of us.  No more impromptu trips to Cheyenne for lunch with Nana or afternoon runs to AJs for a soda.  I will miss this time with you more than you’ll ever know.

We argue and get frustrated with each other.  We get mad.  You get sad.  But nothing is ever too bad that we can’t fix it with an “I’m sorry” and a good, long hug.  May that always be the case for our relationship.  We love you to pieces my dear, sweet, kind, beautiful girl.  Happy 5th birthday.

Love,

Mama

(This is the fifth in a series of letters I’ve written to my daughter each year on her birthday.  When she’s 18th, I’m going to give them to her and let her see herself through our eyes over the years.)

family, Uncategorized, writing

What’s In a Name

Zoo Trip-1-2.JPG

To all the little kids in Wyokiddo’s preschool, my name is Emily’s Mom.

“Hi Emily’s mom!”

“Emily’s Mom, come sit by me!”

“Mrs. Emily’s Mom, can you help me with  my juice box?”

It’s music to my ears.

When I resigned from my professional position to marry Outdoor Guy, several of my colleagues didn’t hold back in criticizing my decision.  They said I was wasting my education.  I was crazy to walk away from such a successful career.  I could have it all.

They couldn’t understand that their goals for me weren’t my goals for me.

As much as I loved my job and was good at it, I knew in my heart I wanted a different future.  One where my title wasn’t assistant division chief but wife and mom.

One amazingly supportive husband, two miscarriages, four solid months of throwing up and 8 years later, I’m both.

So call me Mrs. Milner, call me Emily’s Mom, either way, I am blessed.

Teresa

family, photography, Uncategorized

Moms In The Picture

MomsinthePicture-1

A photography Facebook group that I follow posted a challenge to all the moms out there: get in the picture with your family.

I have tons of photos of my daughter, some of my husband and very few with me with them.  I’m usually the one taking the pictures.  And admittedly, I’m sometimes reluctant to get in the photo because I’m not happy with how I look at that given moment.  Or any moment, really.

But I rose to the challenge and set up some photos of Wyokiddo and I playing tonight.  And I need to rise to the challenge more often and take photos for her not just of her.  Because someday, Wyokiddo will want these photos of us together.

Here’s the thing…She’s not going to care that my hair isn’t fixed, or that my backside is bigger than I want it to be.  She won’t notice the patchy lighting or the horrible clutter in the background.  She’s going to see it sometime down the road and think “Oh!  Lincoln logs!  Mom and I would spend hours on the floor building houses only to knock them down and start all over.”

I’d even venture to guess that she’ll love these photos of us together, big butts and all.

Here’s to being one of the #momsinthepicture.

Teresa